Thursday, January 12

Even at that hour when the grey sky of St. Petersburg is shrouded in total darkness and all its race of officials have dined and sated themselves, each in their own way, in accordance with their means and culinary preferences, when the clerkdom of St. Petersburg are resting from their daily scratching of pens, from the fuss and bustle of their own and other departments and from all the extra and unnecessary work voluntarily undertaken by all those of a restless disposition, when the officials are hastening to devote their remaining free time to pleasurable pursuits: the more enterprising dashing to the theatre, some roaming the streets, peeking under the ladies’ natty bonnets, some passing the evening addressing compliments to some attractive maiden, the star of a small constellation of officials, some, and this is their most common occupation simply, setting off to a colleague’s third or fourth floor flat, where he occupies two small rooms and a hall or kitchen sporting certain fashionable pretensions, a lamp or some other knick-knack, obtained at the cost of many a sacrificed dinner and night on the town; in other words, even at the time when all officials disperse around the small flats of their friends to play storm whist, sipping tea out of glasses and eating cheap rusks, drawing on long church-warden pipes, and relaying during the dealing some slander picked up from high society, which the average Russian always and in whatever state finds totally irresistible, or even, when there is nothing else to talk about, retelling the age old joke about the commandant who is informed that the tail of the horse on Falconet’s monument has been docked — that is to say, even at that time when the rest of the world is looking for entertainment Akaky Akakievich would not permit himself any such frivolity. No one could say that they had ever seen him in a party. Having sated himself with the pleasures of copying, he would go to bed, smiling at the thought of the morrow, at what God would send him to copy. Such was the peaceful life led by a man who with a salary of four hundred rubles was able to be content with his lot, and such would it have continued, perhaps, to a hoary old age, were it not for certain disasters which lie in store not only for titular, but even privy, state, aulic and all other councillors, and even for those who neither give nor take counsel of any sort. 

~The Overcoat. Gogol.

Monday, November 14

शेर की सवारी

एक समय की बात है... गुजरात का राजा था। बड़ा महत्वकांशी। और आत्मविश्वास से भरपूर। जैसा की महत्वकांशी व्यक्ति अक्सर होता है। जुआरियों वाला आत्मविश्वास! एक दिन की बात है राजा जंगल में घूम रहा था। तभी वहां उसे एक शेर ('काला धन') दिखा। राजा ने सोचा अगर इसकी सवारी की जा सके तो दिल्ली की गद्दी मिल सकती है। काम खतरनाक था। पहले भी कुछ लोग ऐसी कोशिश कर चुके थे, मगर सफल नहीं हुए थे। पर राजा महतवकांशी था। चढ़ बैठा शेर पर। और घुमा दी उसकी गर्दन दिल्ली की और। और ये उड़ और वो उड़। जिसने भी देखा भय और विस्मय से ऊँगली दबाने लगा "शेर की सवारी!" लोगों ने कहा। "अनहोनी! अनसुनी! ये जरूर देव या दानव होगा।" कुछ ही दिनों में दिल्ली की गद्दी राजा की थी। राजा का आत्मविश्वास अब चरम पर था। जब भी उसे लगता की लोगों का उत्साह उसके प्रति कम हो रहा है, राजा शेर निकालता और सवारी करने लगता। लोग चुप कर जाते। ऐसे ही कुछ समय निकल गया। फिर एक दिन राजा को लगा की फिर से सवारी करने का समय गया है। लोगों का उत्साह कुछ हल्का होने लगा था। मगर वो भूल गया की शेर तो शेर है। उस दिन शायद शेर का मूड ठीक नहीं था। या बार बार की सवारी से वो तंग गया था। या फिर राजा ने उसके कान कुछ ज्यादा ही उमेठ दिए थे उस दिन। जो भी हो। राजा जैसे ही शेर पर सवार हुआ शेर ने उसे ले पटका...  और राजा चित्त! राजा देव या दानव नहीं, नश्वर था।

Tuesday, August 2

Got told off by my ex. Don’t know what I minded more, that she wanted to stop all communication, or her tone, cool as a cucumber. It must be that damned English weather. She wasn’t like this when she still lived here.

Dashed off a scathing reply. Rant, for most part. When that didn’t prove enough, dashed off another. Still more rant. Guess my pride had been hurt … Funny how fast the slide into the abyss is once you’ve strayed from the straight path, be it ever so little! Till last year we had both kept our distances, in the physical and the virtual world both … Did I also miss her at times? Yes. But, so what? Too much is made of feelings nowadays. Important thing is that we had been doing the right thing. But, things changed last year. We got to chatting once again. And now see where we are ... And fat lot of use it is to know that my motives have been throughout good and honourable! As though I could ever be sure! Didn’t I just say that I missed her? It’s a slippery slope, trying to ascertain one’s motives after the fact, human nature is so complex (or so the psychologists will tell us; and yet, they will insist that we delve into it.) Then, when I can’t even remember my motives for something that I did yesterday, how can I remember them for something I did last year? A nice to-do! Reminds me of a British television series from the late seventies based on a book of the same name by John le Carré, TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY: “Reason as motive, or reason as logic, or reason as a way of life?” Motive has been shown to be no good. And logic? For all the use it is human affairs, we may as well not consider it. That leaves reason as a way of life as our only hope. To have lived according to a logos — it is either this, or you hang yourself, motive and logic be damned! Or if you don’t, life will; sometimes for real!

Thursday, December 18

Modernity

You wake up to find yourself in a strange bed. How you got there you have no idea. All you know is that this is not your own bed in which you were wont to sleep your whole life. Maybe you got there by mistake, thinking you were getting into your own bed; or maybe you were tricked, by someone unscrupulous. It doesn’t matter. Now you are in it and you are not going anywhere. You will be hacked and cut if too long, or pulled and stretched if too short, but one way or another you will be 'fitted' to it, until you will think it the most 'natural' thing in the world. And it will be done not by anyone else but by you. Yes. You will cut and hack your own limbs with your own hands, and you will keep doing it until the proportions are exactly 'right.' Do you want to know what this bed is and who you are? You are none other than us — you, i and everyone else — and the world is our Procrustean bed.

Monday, October 6

The Men Who Walk

Each one of us has a place in the world, what someone might call our station in life. My own is with those who would rather walk — i mean both the poor and such old-world relics as the ascetic, the wanderer and the street vendor. Like them even i am a great walker and would go on foot even though i had a ride waiting, alone or in company, over long distances or short, in rain or sunshine, through the dust laden atmosphere of my adopted city or the clean fresh air of my hometown ... I prefer it to all other forms of transportation, old or new, in the sky or on terra firma. You only need your own set of two feet and little else besides — what could be cheaper or more independent? But above all i prefer it because of, like i said, who i am ... my place. The “shoe” fits right in (or the lack thereof.)

Tuesday, July 1

Truth or APPEARANCE of Truth?

What passes for “virtue” in our very own bourgeois household: There ought to be at least more than one dish on the table during meals — one preferably a curry — so the hand could “turn” and didn’t have to return to one place again and again (or as my mother sometimes puts it now: “until your father was alive, there were always served two dishes; only now do we sometimes have just one.”) 2. At all times there ought to be a "surplus" of essential household items. It is a sign of "want" to have to rush to the market each time a thing is needed (as when a guest arrives and there are no refreshments.) 3. When visiting someone else’s house one must never go empty-handed but should always carry some eatable (but never a pack of biscuits, for that is considered "vulgar".) What else is considered vulgar (especially for women): to go about during the daytime wearing only a nightgown.

(People from my own part will easily recognize these “truths” in these expressions: हाथ पल्टुड़ लिजी दूइ साग तो हूँड़ चैनी; खाली हाथ कसी जां, के ना के तो लीजाण भै; कोई गे कोई नह गे। बड़ भल लागूं। भीतरपन चीज़ तो हूँड़ चान।


Thursday, June 5

In the dream, they were sitting in a cafe. She knew it was him even though she had never seen him — by his smile. He smiled constantly — “Il rit. Il rit beaucoup” — while she was trying desperately to convince him of something. Whatever it was, it was evidently between friends, for whenever they didn't talk, they laughed. Their laughter was what she remembered as the best thing about the dream — that, and the smells, of baking bread, of coffee, regular cafe smells, but made stronger, richer, by the freshly falling rain. They stayed with her even when she woke up in the morning, clinging to her and merging in her mind with other, morning smells, so that for a long time she didn't know whether she was really awake or still dreaming.

Even at that hour when the grey sky of St. Petersburg is shrouded in total darkness and all its race of officials have dined and sated the...